Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 17, 2023
All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.
We start with local news…
Ogles Questioned About 2014 Fundraiser (Tennessean)
U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles is firing back after funds raised in memory of his infant son are being called into question by several news outlets.
Andy and Monica Ogles raised more than $23,000 in a GoFundMe campaign after the death of their son Lincoln.
"Help us help other families," the description reads on the GoFundMe set up in 2014.
The fundraiser's initial goal was to buy plots at either Mount Hope Cemetery or Williamson Memorial Gardens and help other grieving families with the financial burden of burying a lost child. Contributions for the Ogles family poured in over the course of a year after the couple launched the campaign.
A spokesperson for GoFundMe confirmed that the money raised was paid out to the organizer of the fundraiser. Ogles is listed as the organizer.
A year later, however, Ogles told The Tennessean that there were unexpected regulations with the burials, and that none of the money had been spent.
Ogles, now a freshman congressman representing Tennessee's 5th district, was recently asked by News Channel 5 what happened with the money. He declined to answer in the moment, but his office later provided a response to various local outlets.
"What we raised wasn't enough for our original goal of a more significant memorial, so the purpose evolved from a memorial to direct financial support for families covering the cost of funeral expenses and other needs for their children as opportunities to help arose," the statement says.
Ogles then lashed out at the original story by NC5, calling the questions "disgusting lows."
"The smear campaign and muckraking against me is one thing, but questions about my son have crossed a line, and I will not tolerate it," the statement says. "Exploiting the death of any child in an attempt to gain some sort of journalistic fame is vile."
Ogles' spokesperson did not immediately respond when asked if financial documents would be released showing the payouts helping families or if they could connect The Tennessean with a family who benefitted from the fundraiser.
Pam Stephens, an owner of Williamson Memorial Funeral Home, organized an effort to help families. In 2015, she said she told Ogles other families had a similar idea and offered to pull the project together.
"All I know is I offered my help, and they never reached back to me," Stephens said Wednesday evening.
Stephens said the funeral home decided to move forward with their own fund to help families in need.
Dump Fight (MainStreetMaury)
An application filed to the Marshall/Maury Municipal Solid Waste Planning Region Board by Barge Design Solutions on behalf of Remedial Holdings and Star Hill Eco Park – the company attempting to “expand” a landfill on the former Monsanto site in Maury County – contends the property is not subject to the Jackson Law.
Recently passed by the Maury County Commission and City of Spring Hill, the site was thought to have been protected by the City of Columbia’s passing of the law in 2013.
“The Star Hill Eco Park property has been used continuously for industrial activities, including ancillary uses such as the processing, transferring, handling, recycling, and disposal of Class I, II and III waste since well before the adoption of Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-211-701, et seq. (which is commonly referred to as the Jackson Law), and well before the adoption of zoning in Maury County in 1986. Accordingly, the property is exempt from the Jackson Law review process and is provided protection under the Tennessee Non-conforming Property Act, Tenn. Code. Ann. § 13-7-208, as a legally “non-conforming use,” the application presented to the board reads.
Barge contends the site’s use predates the law’s passing, which precludes the site from local jurisdiction. The application states the proposed expansion meets the criteria laid out by the regional planning board.
“The proposed expansion meets all of these criteria largely because it is located on a site historically used for heavy industrial activities, including ancillary uses but not limited to waste disposal, and is not on a new, undisturbed greenfield,” it reads.
The 1,373-acre site’s conceptual plan includes a compost facility, solar farming, waste tire processing, material recovery facilities (MRF), wetland mitigation and enhancement along the Duck River and metals recycling.
“The proposed expansion will have a significant, positive impact on the local economy. Both Marshall County and Maury County, as well as the City of Columbia and outlying areas, will receive a huge economic benefit from the proposed expansion, as well as from the Star Hill Eco Park as a whole,” the letter reads. “Not only will the project provide growth opportunities for the Region, but it will also bring recognition to the Region for its leadership in recycling and reuse. The project will increase revenues, save costs, and provide jobs to residents of the area.”
The letter also states the property is not subject to any setbacks or buffers from the Duck River due to the site having been operational prior to any adopted restrictions.
While local opponents concede a small landfill used to safely store phosphorus has been operational, the intent of the project is to become a much larger facility.
“This small landfill is now being used as a tool to build a dump on 100’s of acres of the Monsanto property, including part of the Harlan Family Cemetery. This company, Trinity, has a total disregard for our community and is trying to propose this dump on our river as a solution to the waste problems of Tennessee,” Gale Moore wrote in a statement to local media.
On Wednesday, farmer Sam Kennedy lead a group of around 200 local Maury County residents to the state house as legislators were set to hear arguments for designating the stretch of the Duck River alongside the property as a scenic river, which prohibits certain developments – including landfills – along the banks. Due to lack of time, the bill was rolled to next week, where a large contingency is expected to fight against the landfill proposal.
Rep. Scott Cepicky, who is the chief sponsor of the bill is calling for the protection of the Duck River as not only one of the most bio-diverse rivers in the country, but also the main source of water from some 300,000 Tennesseans. According to opponents of the landfill, a dump like the one proposed could well put that water source in jeopardy.
Clement to Speak at Clement (Press Release)
Columbia State Community College will host former congressman Bob Clement for a special presentation on March 30 at 4 p.m.
“Like his father, Congressman Bob Clement has enjoyed a remarkable life and career in public service,” said Dr. Barry Gidcomb, Columbia State professor of history. “Because it was Governor Clement and his commissioner of education, J. Howard Warf, who created the community college system in Tennessee, we thought it fitting to invite the congressman to speak at Tennessee's first community college and in Columbia State’s building named for Governor Clement.”
The presentation is an opportunity for the community to visit with and listen to the former congressman, who has a unique connection to Columbia State.
“We're looking forward to hearing what Congressman Clement has to say about his life and career and the legacy of his father,” Gidcomb said.
The presentation is free and open to the public. It will take place on March 30 at 4 p.m. in the Ledbetter Auditorium located in the Clement building on the Columbia Campus.
Winner in Spring Hill (thenewstn.com)
A winning $350,000 Daily Tennessee Jackpot lottery ticket was sold in Spring Hill.
According to a Tennessee Lottery news release, the winning ticket was sold at the Main Street Food Lion grocery store, but no information about the winner has been released.
The Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation reports that more than $6.5 billion has been raised to fund education programs since 2004, with players winning more than $18.5 billion in prizes and Lottery retailers earning more than $1.7 billion in commissions.
Sandy Hook Bridge (MainStreetMaury)
Efforts to preserve the Sandy Hook historic bridge have received a boost from the international community.
The Sandy Hook bridge was recognized by The Bridge Hunter Chronicles International Bridge Award contest, receiving three gold medals and one silver medal. Sandy Hook received awards for Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge, Bridge of the Year and Best Bridge Photo, while finishing second in the Endangered Truss category. Bridges from Canada, Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Great Britain and the U.S. were part of the competition. More on the awards can be found online at www.bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com.
“The bridge has five concrete arches with parapets and was built by W.B. King in 1916. Maury County originally planned to remove the structure for safety reasons, yet locals have put up a fight to ensure that demolishing the bridge doesn’t happen, but instead restore the bridge as a pedestrian crossing,” the website states in its report.
Kevin Davis, the chairman of the Sandy Hook Historic Bridge Foundation, also stated that the foundation is beginning talks with TennGreen, a park/walking trail agency in Nashville that helped develop the Stillhouse Falls nature preserve in Rockdale.
“Hopes are for a walking trail between Stillhouse Falls and the Sandy Hook 5 Arch Bridge with a small park area with benches and picnic tables alongside the bridge’s bank,” Davis said in an email to Main Street Maury.
The bridge has been blocked off for over a year by the Maury County Highway Department and at its 2020 inspection by the Tennessee Department of Transportation was deemed to be “in poor condition.”
The bridge’s future is also tied up in the court system, as a complaint by the Sandy Hook foundation alleges that the Maury County Highway Department and superintendent Van Boshers did not follow the proper procedure when closing off the bridge. No hearing date has been set.
Historian Richard Quin, a Maury County native who served as Regional Historic Preservation Planner for the area during the 1980s, has created a video testimony as to the historic significance of the Sandy Hook bridge,
“The Sandy Hook bridge is truly significant. I can’t think of a single surviving bridge in Maury County with more character,” Quin says in the video.”Plus it was the work of a local craftsman, which gives it extraordinary local significance.”
The bridge is also under consideration for the National Register of Historic Places, as the Army Corps of Engineers has placed the site on its agenda to consider it for historical value.
The estimated cost of the bridge’s demolition is $1.4 million, with Maury County being responsible for $280,000.
Midstate Classic a Success (MainStreetMaury and WKOM)
The annual Mid-State Classic Softball tournament took place at Columbia’s Ridley Park on Wednesday. Touted as the most-attended tournament of the entire season of collegiate softball, thousands of fans showed up in the chilly March air to watch three exceptional softball games.
Second-ranked Tennessee overcame an early deficit to defeat Austin Peay 6-1 Wednesday in the nightcap of the Midstate Classic college softball doubleheader at Columbia’s Ridley Park.
It was the Lady Vols’ fifth victory in as many appearances at the event, which dates to 2014. UT’s previous wins came in the inaugural matchup against Middle Tennessee State (9-8), as well as consecutive shutouts against Belmont in 2016, Memphis in 2018 and MTSU in 2019 prior to last year’s 8-4 comeback victory over Memphis.
Catcher Giulia Koutsoyanopulos hit a fourth-inning solo home run to snap a 1-1 deadlock, and Ashley Rogers threw 4.2 scoreless innings of relief with 13 strikeouts to pace UT to its 16th straight victory and improve the team’s record to 21-1.
Austin Peay slipped to 11-9 with the loss, despite a complete-game effort from Jordan Benefiel in the circle. Macee Roberts and Morgan Zuege each had hits for the Lady Govs, with Zuege scoring the team’s only run on a third-inning wild pitch.
In the opening game of the doubleheader, Motlow State defeated Columbia State 7-0.
Prior to the college contests, Columbia Central defeated Tullahoma 10-2 in a morning meeting at Ridley Park.
All Hands On Deck Give Second Chances (MainStreetMaury)
Community service can mean a world of different things, but for Jai Lipscomb and Thomas Browne of All Hands on Deck, it means finding a way to both give second chances but also preventing the need for one.
All Hands on Deck began as a service where Lipscomb and her team helped adults regain certain levels of freedom by helping to get criminal records expunged.
“We started doing something as simple as community service by helping people redirect their lives. We started doing expungements in the area, helping people clean up their (criminal) records so they could have better opportunities,” she said. “We saw people get better job opportunities, get better benefits – such as government benefits – due to a flaw on their record.
“It could prevent them from feeding their kids or getting a home.”
The feeling of watching someone come out of the courthouse with a new lease on life is one the folks at A.H.O.D. never take for granted.
“The feeling is indescribable for me. I get emotional to see that we can play a small factor in helping people redirect their – and their family’s – futures,” Lipscomb said.
Browne said hearing the stories of those who come out ready to be able to simply vote again – or even for the first time – is amazing, but also to hear the stories about what’s next for those people is what he most enjoys.
“When they come out of the courthouse, I take their picture and they will sometimes share what they’re doing it for, and some of it is just remarkable,” he said.
While working on those expungements, though, Lipscomb noticed a disturbing trend that most offenses were sometimes from juvenile records.
“We found some of those issues stem from youth-involved issues. We came up with this concept of walking upstream to see why they were ‘falling into the stream’ and bridge that gap,” she said.
While the nonprofit organization still handles expungements, they have shifted much of their focus to aiding the youth in Columbia to never need it.
“We are able to train the youth with work ethic and give them the skills needed to get jobs in today’s society,” Lipscomb said. “Sometimes we’re putting our youth into boxes rather than letting them be creative. We allow them to expand their minds and see how they can implement that and create a future for themselves.”
Browne said one of his main goals is to provide a road map for the young men in the community about what it means to be a man.
“We were always taught that to be a man you have to take care of the women and children in your community, and that’s gotten lost somewhere down the line,” he said. “I want to make sure I can get young men to understand that concept and that is part of being a man.”
The organization is partnering with the local 4-H Club on an overnight summer camp to help begin teaching those life skills. The camp is scheduled to begin July 3, and registration to become a member of the A.H.O.D. team is ongoing through social media and their website. Visit them on Facebook at: facebook.com/ahod.org.
“This is home,” Lipscomb said of Maury County. “This comes from the heart and we want to see our people thrive.”
Columbia Fire & Rescue Receives FEMA Grant (MainStreetMaury)
Columbia Fire & Rescue received a grant of $514,050 last week through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide funding directly to fire departments to increase emergency response staffing in communities nationwide.
According to fema.gov, the SAFER grant, which stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, was created to fund fire departments and volunteers to increase the number of trained front-line firefighters.
U.S. Representative Scott DesJarlais said in a press release, “The Columbia Fire Department has some of the finest public servants working on behalf of their community. In 2018, I voted to secure more funding for the Columbia Fire Department so they would have the proper resources to serve the men and women of their city. I thank all first responders for the many sacrifices they make to ensure our safety.”
DesJarlais represents Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District, which included parts of Maury County until the most recent redistricting.
The $514,050 award amount will cover both salary and benefits for three new emergency response staffers for three years through March 2026, coming at no cost to the City of Columbia.
Fire Chief Ty Cobb said his department has seen an increase in emergency response calls on the north side of the city, specifically at Fire Station 5 in Neapolis and Fire Station 3, located off of Bear Creek Pike. With the new Ultium battery plant site in Spring Hill, Cobb said emergency calls will only increase.
“With the recent increase in local development comes the increase in demand for emergency response,” Cobb said. “This grant allows for us to continue to provide the best possible emergency response for our citizens as we adjust to accommodate future growth.”
And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…
Darrell Craig Vinson, 69, a resident of Roswell, Georgia, passed away in Atlanta on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 after a short illness.
Funeral services will be conducted Tuesday, March 21st at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with Deacon Dan McCulley officiating. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Tuesday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.
…And now, news from around the state…
Third Grade Reading Retention Law (Tennessean)
State lawmakers advanced legislation Tuesday that would put fewer third graders at risk of being held back this year under Tennessee’s 2021 reading law.
The law, which pins retention decisions on how well a student scores in English language arts on the annual Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test, would be revised to consider results from a second state-approved test, too — but only for third graders who score just under the state’s proficiency threshold on their TCAP.
The legislation also would direct the state Board of Education to develop rules for appealing any retention decision for students who scored as approaching proficiency.
And it would require that any public school student held back in kindergarten, first grade, or second grade undergo tutoring during their following school year.
The House K-12 subcommittee advanced the measure — which was similar to legislation filed last week by House Education Committee Chairman Mark White — after studying a flurry of other bills to revise the law. Parents, educators, and school boards have flooded lawmakers’ offices with complaints about the state’s stricter retention policy, which takes effect with this year’s class of third graders.
Committee members ultimately rallied around the compromise bill that passed on a voice vote. The measure widens reading test criteria for retention but keeps the state, not local educators, in control of those decisions.
The legislation still faces multiple votes in the House and Senate and could put lawmakers at odds with Gov. Bill Lee. The Republican governor pressed for the law and is urging the legislature to stay the course on the state’s literacy strategy.
His strategy draws a clear line in the sand to prevent “social promotions” and includes free tutoring and summer learning camps to help struggling students catch up on learning, as well as options for retesting third-graders who are at risk of being retained.
“Contrary to what critics will say, Tennessee’s reading success plan is about moving kids forward, not holding them back,” Lee wrote in a recent editorial published by The Tennessean.
A spokeswoman for the governor offered no further comment Tuesday night when asked about the bill’s advancement.
But the leader of the state’s largest teacher organization called it a “positive step.”
“Multiple measures are important when understanding student achievement for young children,” said Tanya Coats, president of the Tennessee Education Association. “A year-end test that runs for 180 minutes for 8- and 9-year-olds should not be the only way we understand where students are in English language arts.”
Only a third of Tennessee students read on grade level, according to state testing data. The existing law puts tens of thousands of third graders — and more than 2,700 students in Memphis-Shelby County Schools, the state’s largest district — at risk of being held back this year if they do not take advantage of summer learning opportunities and tutoring.
“We don’t always get it perfect the first time,” said Rep. Sam McKenzie, a Knoxville Democrat, calling the proposed changes an improvement.
Asked by McKenzie what percentage of third graders would be at risk of retention under the proposed changes, the bill’s sponsors could not give an accurate estimate but said there would be an impact.
“There would be more retained if we didn’t pass this bill,” said Rep. Scott Cepicky, a Culleoka Republican, who is carrying the bill in the House for White.
Third grade is considered a critical marker for reading, which is considered foundational to all subsequent learning.
Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)
The Nashville Zoo has announced that they have welcomed a new tiger.
Anne, a 7-year-old female Sumatran tiger arrived recently from San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The Zoo said her arrival is thanks to a Species Survival Plan breeding recommendation.
Because tigers are solitary animals in the wild, the Zoo says Anne will rotate into Tiger Crossroads, along with Felix and Frances.
Out of the three tigers, Anne is the smallest of the group with a large dot on her cheek.
Frances has an “H” stripe on her cheek and Felix have a more prominent “ruff” of fur around his face due to him being male.
Learn more at www.nashvillezoo.org.